And everyone always said Graf was never involved with tour governance... Let us not forget the other players who played in that exhibition: Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Conchita Martinez, Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere, Helena Sukova, Leila Meskhi, Helen Kelesi, and Judith Wiesner.
Seles-Capriati final would be thrill
The Toronto Star
Saturday, January 18, 1992
Well before a nasty virus forced second-seeded Steffi Graf to withdraw from the $4.7 million Australian Open, the smart money was betting on top-ranked Monica Seles to defend her Aussie title - the first of the three Grand Slam crowns the Yugoslav teen won last year, the year in which she also deposed Graf as world champion and world No. 1.
The virus that waylaid her is particularly bad news for Graf. You see, she only trails Seles, who must defend the ranking points she earned by winning a total of 10 tournaments, by a mere 57 points. Having lost in the quarterfinals to Czechoslovak Jana Novotna last year, the points-heavy Australian represented Graf's best chance to make a big gain on Seles who even if she wins only holds her ground.
The real winner, however, is undoubtedly Jennifer Capriati, the No. 5 seed who was drawn in the same side of the women's singles draw as Graf and the third-seeded Gabriela Sabatini.
Capriati, who will not turn 16 until March 29 but nevertheless reached the semifinals of both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, has never beaten Graf. But with victories over Sabatini at last summer's Canadian Open, which she went on to win, and in a strikingly convincing 6-3, 7-6 victory in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, the fresh-faced American is, for my money, the player most likely to topple Seles from the top of the rankings.
The Florida power-hitter makes her Down Under debut armed with two new weapons: contact lenses and Graf's discarded coach Pavel Slozil.
While observing what strategic pearls of wisdom Slozil might have imparted to his new charge would have been fascinating, it will be equally intriguing to see what happens if the more tour-smart Capriati gets past her potential quarterfinal date with Gaby and reaches her first Grand Slam final . . . and Seles.
On past history, a Seles-Capriati final would be dynamite. Capriati did beat Seles once last year, to win the San Diego tournament, the week before she won in Toronto.
The two next met in the U.S. semis in a seismic, some would even say seminal, slugfest. Capriati twice served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5 of the third set. Inexperience (she made the fatal error of thinking she'd won the match in the changeover before the ninth game) cost Capriati victory. And that said, Seles still needed every ounce of bravery she had to pull out 7-6 (7-3) in the final set.
So riveting was their duel that no one left the stadium before the match was over. A repeat, should it happen, would start 1992 off with a terrific bang, no matter who won.
Tough stance: Wonders will never cease!
Last fall, when Seles backed out of a third tour event - this time to play a well-paying exhibition in the Canary Islands - a miffed Graf, who'd been hoping to play her nemesis in that tournament, called on the Women's Tennis Association to get tough. The fine for playing in an exhibition or special event in conflict with an official tournament is a maximum $10,000, but Graf wanted that raised from the 1991 figure.
"I think another zero should be added," said the Wimbledon champion, who shuns most exhibitions because she doesn't need the money. "If the fine was $100,000 everyone would think about it."
Lo and behold, the WTA, never before known for its moral backbone, heeded Graf's words. Accordingly, the top four ranked women who violate the Kraft Tour "exhibition rule" will indeed be fined $100,000. And fines for Nos. 5-8 will also increase five-fold - to $50,000.
In her typical, don't-bother-to-think-before-you-speak fashion, Seles calls the fine increase "the right move," then blithely adds, "I have decreased the number of exhibitions I will play this year to keep my schedule balanced."
If rumor is right, one of those specials Seles will play will be the 1992 remake of the Battle of the Sexes, the famous match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King that King won.
Seles' male opponent in the $1 million match will be 39-year-old Jimmy Connors. Seles insists its not just the money - $1 million to the winner; $100,000 to the loser - that interests her. "I'd like to play someone who grunts as much as I do," she quipped. "Besides, I'm tired of playing girls."
Loudmouth award: Esquire magazine has given one of its 1991 Dubious Achievement Awards to Andre Agassi. The Las Vegas loudmouth earned the (dis)honor for a remark he made when reporters asked how he felt about reaching the final of the French Open for the second straight year. Answered Agassi, who is shown looking in a mirror as he blow dries his bleached blond hair: "I don't want you to think I'm not happy about this. I'm as happy as a ****** in a submarine."
Singles spot open: With Canadian Davis Cup coach Pierre Lamarche already having picked hometown hero Grant Connell to play No. 1 singles and Connell and Michibata teamed to play doubles in the Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 Canada-Sweden Davis Cup world group tie that will be played in Vancouver, competition for the second singles spot is keen.
The top three candidates are veterans Chris Pridham of Oakville and Martin Laurendeau of Montreal and 19-year-old Torontonian Daniel Nestor, who just returned from Melbourne, where he qualified (but lost in the first round) for the Australian Open.